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Currently in August

...reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling and Bittersweet by Shauna Neiquist. It is my first time re-reading the Harry Potter books in many years, and I've flown through three books in four days! The final four books are two if not three times larger than the others, so they may take a while. If you haven't read them, I highly suggest you do!

...watching the online series Emma Approved. It is a modern take on Jane Austen's Emma with two weekly videos. I'v been following the series for several months, and I am sad/delighted to say it is nearing the big finish! Most videos are between 4-6 minutes long, and their sister series The Lizzie Bennet diaries is just as fun.

...trying to stay on top of my assignments. I thought I'd quit the procrastinating game after undergrad but, nope, it's still tempting.

...eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich. I may be in grad school but my elementary school standard is still my favorite.

...pinning fall inspiration. AH! It's just around the corner, can't you feel it?! Well, actually all I can feel is the Texas Oklahoma heat, so fall better hurry up.

...tweeting about the Blog-tember Challenge! The newest daily blog challenge starts next Monday! Read all about it and get the daily prompts here.

...going to Austin this weekend. A gal pal of mine is getting married next week so we're celebrating her with a bachelorette weekend over Labor Day! I can't wait!

...loving my apartment! A comfy couch, my own space to cook, and a queen bed to happily sink into at the end of the day. There are still so many details to put in order, and several boxes still in storage, but the next few months will have this place in shape.

...discovering more and more about this little town. It has its charms, you know? 

...enjoying meeting so many new people! Between the theatre department and YoungLife leaders, I've made sweet new friends all over the place! 

...thinking about going to bed soon. Oh wait, I have homework. 

...feeling achey all over. My lower back pain has returned in full force. Boo.

...hoping for a good night's sleep and a fresh start tomorrow. I'm taking things one day at a time these days. In the Word it says "My grace is sufficient for you..."  and that's what I'm counting on. 

...listening to The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger. It's SO GOOD! Her worship album is already at the top of my list, and it was only released on Monday.

...thanking Mom and Dad for helping me move to OSU! While I was at orientation, they loaded up the Uhaul and brought it all here. 

...starting Doctor Who. Might not be the best use of my time, but it's so good! I finally get the hype.

What about you friends? What are you up to today?

Don't forget! The Blog-tember Challenge begins next week! Share the image/button on social media using the tag #blogtemberchallenge for a chance to win a Starbucks gift card! The giveaway runs through 8/31, and the winner will be announced on Day 1 of the link up. Hope to see you there!

The 2014 Blog-tember Challenge

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find myself staring at an empty blog post with nothing to write. The little line blinks and blinks but no words flow. Sometimes I have a catchy title but no content, and other times the idea I had ten minutes ago sounds far beyond silly when I start. Anyone else know how that goes? I'm positive I'm not alone here.

Fret no more, friends! Your days of struggling to come up with topics are over! At least for a month. Earlier this year I hosted a link up called the Blog Every Day in February challenge. It was certainly a challenge in more ways than one, but so many of you enjoyed it that I thought I'd go for round 2. All that being said, I am excited to introduce The Blog-tember Challenge!

The Blog-tember Challenge is a daily link up that will begin September 1st. Below I have provided a prompt for every day of the upcoming month --see? I've done all the hard work already ;)-- and each day you will be able to link up with everyone participating. I wanted to share these ahead of time so you can write whenever you'd like!

So here is my INVITATION. Won't you join me for the #blogtemberchallenge?  The idea of posting every day may seem daunting at first, but with a little prep it will be totally manageable! Feel free to follow one of the prompts, all of the prompts, or none of them. The main goal is to get us all writing together, and we may as well learn more about our favorite bloggers and get to know new ones while we do it!

There really are no rules to this. I have provided a button that links back to the prompt page for ease of access, and I will offer a link-up at the end of each of my posts. If you share your posts on Twitter or Instagram, be sure to hashtag #blogtemberchallenge so we can all follow along! If you're in, let your readers know what's coming up and give them the opportunity to join in as well.

Report back here on next Monday, September 1, with your first update! 

The Blog-tember Daily Prompts:

Sept 1st: Imagine the front sleeve of a hard cover novel. Give us your "About the Author" so we can get to know one another, and for fun tell us what your imaginary novel would be about.
Sept 2nd: Write about what makes you happy, from the little joys to the huge game-changers.
Sept 3rd: "When I grow up I want to be...." Feel free to answer as your 5-year-old self or as of now.
Sept 4th: Pick a fashion trend you love and a fashion trend you hate. Win us over!
Sept 5th: "I am passionate about ______________. "
Sept 6th: A "currently..." post. Tell us what you're loving, hating, reading, eating, etc. If you want to borrow a list, mine is here.
Sept 7th: What's on your current reading list? Or what have you read that you recommend?
Sept 8th: Music that moves you. Are you a Spotify addict or a Pandora guru? Tell us your favorite artists/stations!
Sept 9th: Let's talk personality types. Introverted? Extroverted? Unsure-troverted? ;) If you know your Myers-Briggs type, tell us about it! If not, you can take this similar test and share your results.
Sept 10th: List 10 things that you love about yourself! Let's kick that negative self-talk outta here!
Sept 11th: How do you stay inspired? Who inspires you the most?
Sept 12th: Tell us about a favorite tradition. It could be a family tradition or from a holiday, university, you-name-it. What makes it so special?
Sept 13th: Your current relationship status. If dating/married, give us a glimpse of your story! If single, share about this special season.
Sept 14th: When did you start blogging and why?
Sept 15th: Make a mood board. Are you brainstorming a room re-do, or are you dreaming of glamping with gal-pals? Share a collage of any kind! (Examples here and here).
Sept 16th: "Most people don't know this but..."
Sept 17th: Be brave: make a vlog!
Sept 18th: Tell a tale of traveling, a city or country you've been to or a favorite vacation.
Sept 19th: If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?
Sept 20th: Share a day in the life. Pictures, timelines, stats, however you like.
Sept 21st: Fall Favorites. What do you love most about this season?
Sept 22nd: Introduce us to 5 blogs you read on the regular, and tell us why!
Sept 23rd: A guide to your city! Share some of the hot-spots and hidden gems of where you live.
Sept 24th: Your fall bucket list. What do you want to do before winter rolls around?
Sept 25th: Grab a guest post! Swap blogs with someone, and share about anything. :)
Sept 26th: How have you changed in the past year?
Sept 27th: What's on your wish list? Be sure to include links so we can shop, too ;)
Sept 28th: What were your highs and lows for this month?
Sept 29th: What are your go-to blogging resources? What would you recommend to a beginner?
Sept 30th: A farewell coffee date. Take some time to breath, sip a warm drink, and share with your new blogging buddies. If you'd like a prompt: how did the Blog-tember challenge go for you? Any surprises? What was your favorite prompt, or what would you like to see included next time?

Happy blogging, friends! Let's knock this #blogtemberchallenge out of the park!

Be You, Bravely: Kate of Simply Be

It never ceases to amaze me, this lovely little blogging community. Kate, who you'll meet below, has been a source of delight and encouragement over the last six months or so and it has left such an impact on my life! This gorgeous gal has a generous heart, a genuine spirit, and a grand dream to see this world bettered by the love of Jesus. I am more than thrilled to introduce you to Kate of Simply Be as we continue the Be You Bravely series today!

Who are you, my dear?
Hey! I'm Katlin Brown, but most call my Kate! I blog over at Simply Be. I'm a newlywed, that has the privilege of doing life with my best friend & forever love, Micah! I work on staff at a church in the Discipleship Ministry and Micah works for his family's business. Micah and I are blessed with getting the opportunity of doing life with many teens. Being able to witness their precious lives encounter Christ is breathtaking. I have a love for tea pots, record players, Bing Crosby and sitting on our porch with our pup soaking in God's goodness. My heart yearns for simplicity and I'm continually learning what it means to Simply Be a daughter of our King. 

What does it mean to be you, bravely? 
I love being transparent, so I'm going to straight forward - I am not brave! I tend to stay in my box. Where it's comfortable, things I know are "safe". About the time I really felt like life was extremely comfortable, God asked me to "go". My first experience with sincere trust and a heart that desired bravery was last October. I went to serve in Costa Rica on a mission trip in some of the worst slums in San Jose. 

For me, being me bravely means: TRUSTING IN WHO GOD IS! 

I love the thought of travel, but when it comes down to getting in a car or flying in a plane every fear creeps in. The thought of being in a place where I couldn't have my Dad, Micah or others that helped me feel "comfortable" terrified me. I really reflected on the following verses before the trip as well as the time I spent there: 

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide  and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

{Ephesians 3:14-20}

I had to sincerely grasp the depths of our Father's love. He loves me in my deepest & darkest spots. Those places that I fear and let worry overtake me. Being brave meant that I had to allow that love to infuse every part of my being. Be Brave, sweet gals! Allow our Father's love to envelope you so tightly!

If you could have a heart-to-heart with younger you, what would you say?
If I could have a chat with a younger me, I would tell myself to remember: "only grace". I have always been such a perfectionist and people pleaser that it often left me upset, worried and fearful. Not only of what this world thought, if I hurt someone's feelings but also of failing our God. I placed so much pressure to be the best that I forgot to simply live because ONLY GRACE can make me whole- ONLY GRACE can restore my heart to the way it was before-ONLY GRACE can teach me to forgive myself (& others) the way Christ forgives- ONLY GRACE can do any of that. Instead of trying to earn the grace I knew my Father gave so freely, I tried to His "perfect" daughter! So, younger me … learn to accept the grace our Father lavishes upon you!

What is encouraging you this week?
This week I have been so encouraged by other women of God. My heart believes in the wisdom that can be gained from a mentor, elder or women that are a season ahead of you in life. I have been reminded this past week to soak in God's love and really take the time to allow His love to be real in my life. Not simply say it, but firmly believe it! 

Just for fun, what are 3 must haves?
1. My bracelet. This bracelet is placed on my hand daily. It used to be a bright green, but for my wedding I received a more classy one. The bracelet reads: Gomerica Lives / 3.9.11. You can read the story behind the bracelet here.

2. My prayer journal for Micah. As I prepared my heart to become Micah's wife I valued the thought of praying for him daily. So my journal helps me to keep to my hearts desire.

3. Colored pre-wrap. I love to walk, ride bikes, play tennis, etc. but with my hair being short & thin the regular headbands do not stay in my hair. So, from my old high school volleyball days I've returned to making pre-wrap headbands before an activity. 

Isn't she just lovely?! Thanks so much for sharing, Kate!

BJR at OSU | Apartment Glimpses

As of yesterday at 5:30pm, I successfully survived my first day of grad school! Woohoo! If that isn't a cause for celebration, I don't know what is. Day 1 was long and full and I am happily settling into the routine I've been craving all summer. Orientation started last Wednesday with meeting after meeting, but it was a much needed introduction to what is to come. I also met the six other grad students I would be working with this year. I am definitely the youngest but I feel confident that I can make it a great year regardless of my lesser experience and age.

I had a full day to myself last Thursday to explore campus and take care of final details (employment paperwork, ID cards, and those boring things) and I was struck by how LARGE and how beautiful this campus is! Baylor will always have my heart, but if I can't be in awe of Pat Neff every day, this will do quite nicely. Oklahoma State is in the Big 12 with Baylor so it's a fun bit of rivalry, and it is hard not to wince at all the orange and cowboy gear floating around. Supposedly during football season, Friday is "Orange Day" and the campus and city are covered in the bright hue. Even so, I'm planning to sport my green and gold as much as possible  ;)

I moved into my apartment on Saturday even though we were quite worried for a while whether or not it would be finished in time! It's a brand new building a few blocks from campus, and they were having permit issues at the beginning of August. One of the other grad students graciously let me stay at her place until I could get into mine, but once I was in I didn't want to be anywhere else! It has so much potential! The walls are a light gray, the cabinets black with a pretty granite counter top, and shiny new appliances are scattered about (I have never been more excited to have a full sized dishwasher!

Currently the only furniture I have are two barstools and an air mattress, but the rest are being brought up later this week. Thanks Mom and Dad! I will be sharing bits and pieces as the place comes together, but fair warning that posts may be a bit sporadic this week and next as I get the hang of this routine. I have several posts burning in my heart to share, but schoolwork comes first.

What are you up to this week? Has school started for you yet?


Also, be on the look out next week for the details of The Blog-tember Challenge! I plan to host a link-up with daily prompts for September 1-30th (much like the #blogeverydayinFEB challenge from earlier this year).  At this time, I am taking prompt suggestions! What would YOU like to write/read about next month?

Remembering Williams || The Power of Play

Yesterday part of my childhood died. I'm willing to bet that a little bit of yours did, too. Within minutes yesterday evening, every social media outlet was covered with the news of Robin William's passing, and rumors of his battle with depression, the probable cause of his untimely death. The brilliant, unforgettable actor and comedian has always been one of my favorites, and when I first read the headlines I did a double take. A laugh of disbelief caught in my throat. 

Yesterday we lost one of the greats.

Whether he was playing the boy who wouldn't grown up fighting for his children and whimsicality, or taking on the part of a doting, dutiful, dizzying nanny, or even a bright blue genie with whom everyone wanted to be friends, there was something about Robin Williams that was contagious. He brought joy in a way no one else did. He taught us to embrace our own quirks, flaws, and talents and be unapologetically ourselves. At least those are a few of the many things he taught me, and they are lessons I still need to learn today.
Something else that struck me in all of this was the widespread love and prayers he and his family received from hundreds of thousands of people they never met. Each one sharing a clip, quote, or photo of Robin's various characters, with a note of how and why they'll miss him.

This to me is proof that play is powerful.
Play, as in storytelling, is impactful, lasting, and meaningful.
Play, as in the art of theatre that I am pursuing with my life, is important.

Many of you know that I went to school for theatre, and today I start the journey to graduate school to pursue it even further. But I don't know that I've shared just why it means so much to me.

I believe in the power of storytelling. I believe that theatre is an avenue through which we can reflect the most harsh and most beautiful truths of this world and provide an opportunity for people to ask the hard questions, realize the layers within their own stories, and come to understand the human condition with compassion.

I believe that one actor, one director, one show, one scene can make a difference
Have you ever experienced that? 

For some it is the hush that settles over the crowd before the curtain opens.

For others it's when the musical sweeps into the curtain call and you leap to your feet to applaud.

For me, it happens smack dab in the middle of a show. 

Sometimes I'll see myself in an actress onstage, and feel to my core the sensation she is sharing.

Others times I catch myself leaning as far back in my chair, lips pressed firmly together, a hand raised almost covering my eyes to hide the brokenness or tragedy on display.

And you may also find me glued to my seat, forgetting to breath as tears roll down my cheeks.

When the lights come up, and reality sets in...
What do I do next? 
What should you do next? 
Ask why.

Go on, dive in, ask yourself why? What about this moved me? What about this disturbed me? What in this scene/show/song reflected who or where I am in life? Why was this so distant, so hard to connect?

Ask the why and talk about it! Explore it thoroughly. Grab a friend, a notebook, an empty blog post and go for it! I need to take more of my own advice and do it. In a world where so much of the entertainment industry is all for flash and show to get viewers -and money- in the doors, it's up to us to walk out with an inquisitive "why?" Let's make it mean something.

The stories we share and the stories we step in to matter. 
But they should matter beyond the theatre's double-doored exit. 
We get to carry them with us.

I once was in a show called Quartet with Grand Piano, and before each performance the actors, directors, and musicians gathered together to pray. We'd ask that hearts be touched, our stories resonate far and wide, and that we would come together as a company. We'd say amen and keep our hands connected, exchanging knowing grins as we all repeated: 

"There's magic in the theatre. The theatre is magic!"
Never have I been more convinced of this. 

Gone are the days that I am apologetic or embarrassed about what I believe to be God's calling for me. That phrase, y'all! In the depths of my heart I know that God is calling for me to make a difference in this world and in my city through theatre. 

I am a storyteller who is interested in your story as well as mine, right along side the people we read on the page. I believe we learn so much more about ourselves when we try to step into someone else's story, shoes, or circumstances. It looks different for everyone and is a life long process, but I plan to take it every step of the way. 

Theatre has taught me that my story matters even in the midst of the stories of others. It is easy to feel lost in the world where money and success shapes your worth, and you may be big but someone will always be bigger.  I'm the first to discount my story if it falls in the shadow of another.

In blogging even, I often wonder why does my story matter? Isn't someone already telling it better, with more excitement, followers, and prettier pictures? I start in on the list of things I can't write about (marriage, homemaking, running small business, etc) and forget the list of things God has put on my heart to share that I've been neglecting (singleness, contentment, diving into the Word, etc). I put myself in a box and close the lid. 

In theatre, it's much more simple, yet beautifully complex. We get a slice of life, one glimpse into someone's story. Characters come in and out with histories, tragedies, and issues of their own, and we don't always see their stories come to fruition.  But what we do get to do is settle in for an hour or two and feast on the tale before us. We can see things they cannot, appreciate moments, stillness, silences, and laughter when they are not aware of the beauty around them. 

Then we have the opportunity to spin it back on us. To ask those questions from before and assess where we are and where we're headed. In a play, the characters have a set end, and even with our wisest counsel should we shout it from the balcony (and for the love of theatre DO NOT do so) their story ends the same way every time. Ours does not have to. We can choose to surround ourselves with people who will walk alongside us, speak life into us, and hold us accountable along the way. 

We get to see life as so much more. And I thank God for that. I thank God that there are actors, writers, directors, designers, and a multitude of other creatives who have invested their lives into this art. I thank God that there are friends, bloggers, authors, and speakers out there who care about the hearts of those who want their story to be known, to be significant.

Your story is significant, my dear.

Not when you have it all together. Not when it's finally picture perfect. Not when you think you've got it figured out. TODAY. Where you are living, the path you are walking, and the people that surround you, this is significant. Carpe diem, my friend. Seize the day. THIS day. Go on, play. Do. Be. Have at this life with 110% of your energy.

Be a storyteller, if you want.
Be an astronaut, if you want.
Be whatever the Lord is calling you to be.  

And today let's thank the Lord for all the times He's blessed us with laughter, a physical escape from pain and sorrow, as we mourn with many the loss of one of the greats.

Thank you, Robin Williams, for all you've done and said and shared. 
Your stories matter to so many. 
Thank you.

The quote was graciously provided by Shalyn Nelson.
The remaining images are from productions I have either directed or been in while at Baylor University. I plan to share more about these and further projects in the weeks to come. Theatre is too much of my heart and life to keep hidden for fear of misunderstanding and disinterest. So be prepared. This is your final warning ;)

My Best Friend's Wedding

Anyone remember the Julia Roberts movie My Best Friend's Wedding? If you haven't seen it, do it ASAP! The one where she is called up by her best friend and is so eager to see him, to rekindle the spark, only to find out he's engaged? She panics because a bubbly blonde (hello, Cameron Diaz) has swept away the man she used to know and she is quickly immersed in a world of taffeta and frills, desperate to get him back.

Remember that one? Yeah, it's one of my favorites.

Last weekend I had the JOY of going to my best friend's wedding, and I am happy to report it was nothing like said movie (The wedding was gorgeous, yes, but if you've seen the movie, you know what I mean. If not, you still have to watch it!). Ross was my best friend all through high school, and after graduation we both packed our bags and headed off to Baylor. Actually, we packed our bags and headed off to Baylor's Line Camp, a week long "get to know campus" event for new students. We went the same week but were in different groups, and I made fast friends with a red-headed gal named Shannon. Sometime that week I introduced the two and we went along our merry way. I had no idea that I'd be attending their wedding five short years later.

The wedding was in Kansas City, Missouri (apparently a different city entirely from Kansas City, Kansas... I think), a good 9 hours from where I live. I made the trek on Wednesday with my Baylor bestie Claire and her brother Grant. Grant was one of the groomsmen and had to be there early, so we thought we'd make a weekend out of it so us girls could spend time together before school kicked off later this month.

By the way, sequins make every road trip all the more splendid. Incase you were wondering.

We stopped at OSU so I could fill out some paperwork for grad school and take a peek at my new apartment (which, by the way, is still under construction...). There was a flood warning for the area so we couldn't walk around campus like I wanted to, but we still drove around as much as possible. It is so pretty, even with the rain! I can't wait to show it off.

Initially the plan was to stop somewhere in Oklahoma and make the second half of the drive on Thursday, but once we were on the road we just kept going. I camped out in the back seat with Annie F. Down's new book Let's All Be Brave and I was set! Once in Kansas we hunted for hotels but most were completely full or super sketchy. Finally we found a decent looking Travel Lodge and settled in for the evening.

Thursday morning we stopped in Leavenworth to go by the National Cemetery and leave flowers for Claire's grandma. The place was beautiful! I've always found cemeteries to be hauntingly gorgeous and so fascinating. So many stories, my mind and imagination race in twelve different directions. We were back on the road before noon and in Kansas City not long afterward. Now, I know there is a lot of talk about the BBQ there, but we ended up downtown at a Chuy's Mexican restaurant, and boy did it hit the spot. The Plaza was a great place to wander and shop, killing time before check in at the hotel we would be at the rest of the weekend.

I, of course, ended up in the Anthropologie. Their displays were gorgeous, and I loved looking at all the new products! For a gal who went into Anthro almost every day for 10 months, going twice in the entire summer is pretty good, don't ya think? I particularly loved their tablescape that included the dishes I have tucked away at home. I can't wait to unpack these beauties and put them to good use!

You'll also be proud to know that I walked out of there empty handed but oh so inspired. Next on our list, sort of, was Union Station. The old train station was stunning! Full of history, a local art display, and some swankified restaurants. Grant found a gentleman who had been volunteering there for decades and he updated us on the renovations and history of the place. It also houses a science museum, but we were content to play with the toys in the gift shop instead of paying full price for an exhibit ticket.

While Grant was at the rehearsal dinner, Claire and I found our way to an outlet mall and spent the next three hours in and out of dressing rooms, over analyzing every item, tossing clothes back and forth from room to room. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to shop with that girl! Fun and dangerous ;) She scored some great new outfits for teaching and I walked away with a sale dress from the Loft outlet.

We treated ourselves to Coldstone Creamery for dessert and spent the evening chatting about everything under the sun (and the stars!), catching up like old times. Unfortunately I got very sick that night and barely slept, so we took Friday morning pretty slow. After breakfast at the Cracker Barrel across from our hotel (one of my love languages, let me tell ya!), we ran a few errands then crawled back in bed to watch The Help and curl our hair. Before we knew it we were meeting up with my sweet friend Amanda for last minute make-up touch ups and outfit advice before scurrying off to the wedding.

The ceremony was perfect, Christ-centered and beautiful, officiated by the children's pastor of the church I used to go to. Ross and I were in the same youth ministry and drama team there, and it was nice to have a familiar face from my home town.  

But y'all! I cried huge, happy, messy tears through the whole thing. Seeing two incredible people promise themselves to one another, committing to a marriage founded in Christ's love and grace was so moving. I also knew he was going to cry when he first saw her, so when he cried I cried and the tears wouldn't stop rolling. The ceremony was outdoors and the weather was cooperating perfectly. We sat pleasantly in the shade, then moved inside for the reception.

These two are Baylor Bears through and through so instead of cocktail hour there was a Dr. Pepper Hour. At Baylor, a Dr. Pepper Hour is hosted every Tuesday in the student union building. In between classes, students can drop by for Dr. Pepper Floats with Bluebell Ice Cream and it is all kinds of magical (Dr. Pepper was started in Waco, fun fact!). They also served french toast and fruit kabobs which were delightful, and it was followed by a breakfast-for-dinner buffet which was divine! 

Every minute of the 9 hour drive there and back was worth it to celebrate these sweet friends! Ross and Shannon, I am so excited for you two as you start this journey! Thanks for inviting us to be part of your special day, and I wish you many more special moments to come :) Shannon, he's a great best friend to have, which I'm sure you know, and you got one of the best ones out there! 

Did I mention that I caught the bouquet? Well, it slipped through my fingers and dropped to the floor, but no one else reached for it so I grabbed it... but you could say I caught it! Or did I mention that there were only six of us single gals plus the flower girls? Or that my hair did it's I'm-only-going-to-look-perfect-at-midnight thing after we got back to the hotel? You know, all those fun details. ;) What a night and what a trip! It was a great way to round out the summer and it was a delight to be there for it all.

What are y'all up to this weekend? Any weddings in your near future? I've got one more next month so the party continues!

Everything Etsy

Personally, I try to stay as far away from online shopping as possible. It's just too easy! I'm enough of a shopaholic as it is, but when you tell me I can tackle it all from home in my pajamas, that is a recipe for brilliance disaster and a very sad bank account. Even so, I find myself perusing Etsy pretty frequently. I have a large list of shops I've favorited and items I've been eyeing, my wish list a mile long.

This lost covers it all, from stationery to home decor, clothing and bags... you name it I've found it. Today I wanted to show you a handful of my favorites. I don't think they'll surprise you one bit ;)

  • Big Dreams & Grand Schemes Notepad: Aren't these pretty? You can never have too many notepads in my opinion.
  • Square Terrarium: I can just picture this beauty in my new apartment. Quite an eye-catching piece!
  • Art Print: This artist is one of my favorites. I'm still on the hunt for a living room color scheme, and I want to base it on a print. I've always loved this one but I don't know if it's what I'll end up with.
  • Sequined Hangers: Sequins are a girl's best friend. I'd want to put this beauty on display if I had one!
  • Succculent Sample: Can't you just see these pretties in that terrarium? I can :)
  • No Worries Print: I say this all the time! It also makes me sing Hakuna Matata, so that's a plus.

What do you think? Are any of these a must-have? Do you have a favorite Etsy shop I should know about? Let me know!

Be You, Bravely: Rachel of Oh Simple Thoughts

Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen! Today Mrs. Rachel Cox joins us for the next edition of Be You Bravely, and this lady is known for making waves! By that I mean you can't swing by Oh Simple Thoughts without instantly becoming hooked to Rachel's sweet voice, great content, and precious pup Piper! I cannot wait for you to hear more about her adventures and to get to know more of her sweet heart. Be sure to drop by Oh Simple Thoughts and say hello!

Who are you, my dear? 
What a challenging question to answer. Who am I? Well I am Rachel Cox. I was born and raised a Georgia peach, but managed to become a Mississippi belle after coming to college at MSU. I graduated from college in 2013, which was also the same year that I married my best friend, Benjamin Caleb, and became a wife. I work part time for a local church plant here in town, and do everything from stepping in to sing on Sundays, to printing coloring sheets for the kiddos...I wear many hats. I also work part time at a bakery called The Biscuit Shop. We make gourmet biscuits, and it is the coolest job ever. Ben is studying to get his PhD in Civil Engineering. We love to use our hands to build and craft together. Nearly every furniture piece in our home was made by Ben, and painted by myself. We enjoy blessing others by having them into our home, and sharing time with them around our table. I thrive when I am in the kitchen, and love challenging myself to learn new things when it comes to food. Most importantly, I am a sinner, that messes up, falls short, and is undeserving of the life I have been given. But, I have been called a child of Jesus Christ by his grace and I am so grateful for the Gospel and how it compels me in life. 

What does it mean to be you, bravely? 
Well I feel as I would categorize myself as a big baby, not someone that is brave. My husband is the brave one, who loves adventure, climbing, and sky diving...he is not afraid, but me, I am always too scared to step out and do those risky things. However I do think that the word brave can be defined differently than just being willing to do scary, and slightly risking tasks...I think it can be defined as the willingness to allow someone else to be in control, or the ability to trust another with your well being. There was a time in my life (and it still rears it's head from time to time) that I was terrified to relinquish control. I had to be the one behind the wheel, calling the shots, or else I would tail spin into panic. However, by the grace of the Lord, and a lot of sanctification I have seen that I am called as a child of the Most High, to be brave in letting go. I have learned that the only way to live as a believer is to to trust fully in the Lord's good hand in my life. It is to trust that his will and plan is better than mine, and that the Lord will carry me through whatever he places in front of me. So to be brave for me is to relinquish control, to trust, and to rest in the authority of Christ rather than my human strength and mind.

If you could have a heart-to-heart with younger you, what would you say? 
I think that I would spend a lot of time telling myself to stop focusing on others so much and take time to dig into my own heart. Stop chasing after affirmation from other people, and rest in the affirmation of the Gospel, you are wanted, desired, and loved by a mighty creator. I would tell myself, that my one day husband is so worth the wait, and that it would be better to just skip all the other relationships and wait for the ultimate one. I would encourage myself to take time to really understand what the Gospel means, and how to be a believer that is characterized by being a servant. 

What is encouraging you this week?
I think the biggest encouragement to me this week has been the Psalms. I find such comfort, and rest in praying and reading the Psalms. I find that I am able to relate so deeply to David, always emotional, always unsure of his surroundings, and always crying out to the Lord for assurance. I get such joy from reading someone so relateable, and real and raw as David was. I find that often when I am unable to find the words to pray, praying a chapter of the book of Psalm can calm my spirit, and articulate the thoughts swimming in my mind in a much better and more deep way than I could myself.

Just for fun, what are 3 must have's? 
Let's see, I would say coffee. I cannot go a single day without one cup, maybe two or three cups of dark roast coffee. I love the stuff so much, and love the community centered around coffee. Also, my Canon Rebel T3i...I use it every single day to capture pictures, and little moments in my day. Whether that is taking pictures of food that I am making or flowers outside or Piper being Piper...I use that camera every day and cannot go without it. Also, this one may seem silly, but the last is lipstick. Anyone that knows me at all will tell you they can count on one hand how many times they have seen me not wearing a bold shade of lipstick. For whatever reason, I cannot go without it. Even when I am in a t shirt, and nike shorts, I slap on some hot pink lipstick before I head out the door. Some of my favorite shades right now, are Maybelline Fuchsia Fever and Coral Craze.

Making AUGUST Happen

You know, I think I've always been a fan of August. I was that kid who loved going back to school, particularly the school supplies shopping part that falls about at this time of year. Bouquets of sharpened pencils, crisp clean notebooks, a good set of black pens... I'm in heaven. This August will send me back into school mode and I couldn't be more excited! Orientation is next week and classes start the following Monday. Woohoo! Grad school, here I come!

August also marks the completion of my first set of PowerSheets! That is definitely a reason to celebrate! I have shared about these goal setting sheets before on my blog and Instagram, and I'm sure I will be using them for years to come. Lara Casey, the editor of Southern Weddings magazine and founder of Making Things Happen, has come up with an incredible goal-setting method infused with hope and inspiration in her PowerSheets. They are a game changer and definitely worth the investment. 

I bought my first set last summer and only managed one month's worth of worksheet, so the five months left over will finish out 2014! Last night I re-read my big goals, fears sheet, core chart, and dreams pages for a little August inspiration. But before I jump into this month's goals, let's check back in with July's progress.

July Goals:
Move to Texas. Check, check, and check!
Soak up time with familyMom and I took a trip to Austin and I've had plenty of lazy days at home.
Follow She Reads Truth's Sermon on the Mount plan. Ehhhh... I do plan to finish this plan. It didn't happen this month. I did get about halfway? A few days in? Maybe? 
Organize my storage room. Oops. Time escaped me on this one.
Spend a week with my bestie! Claire came for a week plus we went to a wedding together this weekend.
Turn 23. I couldn't skip out on this one ;) It was a great birthday!
Appointments, appointments. I successfully checked the orthodontist and dentist off my list.
Rest, Relax, RefreshYes, yes, yes, and praise the Lord for it! I needed this down time, believe me.

Not too shabby if I do say so myself! July appears to be another funny month, but let's see if we can't knock out a few things along the way, hm?

August Goals:
Move to Oklahoma State University. The countdown is on! But the prayers have also increased because move-in is scheduled for the Saturday before classes and my apartment building is behind. It's brand new and I am eager to get into my space, I'm just afraid I'll be homeless for the first week of classes. Yikes!
Celebrate Ross & Shannon's wedding. This totally counts and I can already check it off because the wedding was on August 1st. It was gorgeous! I'll share more about my trip to Kansas City later this week
Party it up at Joy's bachelorette weekend! Talk about a small world. Joy went to Baylor, but she and I didn't meet until I moved to Seattle, and now she's getting married in Texas. I cannot wait to celebrate with her and my sweet Seattle friends! And when I say "party it up" I mean spend a weekend on the lake with my gal pals. ;)
Organize my storage room. This is a work in progress. I started going through boxes last night, trying to get a feel for just how much I will be squeezing into my one bedroom apartment. I'm a bit of a hoarder packrat collector.
Explore campus/Stillwater. Last week I drove around campus in the pouring rain, but it still looked beautiful! I am eager to find my way around the school and see what all the tiny town has to offer.
Continue the 90 day Bible plan. I get the feeling this will take more than 90 days. Even so, it has already been so refreshing! Re-reading Genesis and Exodus last week brought fresh perspective on the stories I have been hearing since childhood, and I look forward to sharing more with you about this in the weeks to come!
Buy a couch and bed. We sold the ones I had from college so I'm on the hunt for a new set. Wish me luck! I may have found the perfect set of living room furniture and today will be the deciding factor!
Post 3x's per week. I would love to get back to a Monday through Friday schedule, but I need to minimize my stress level this month. The Be You Bravely series will continue on Wednesdays, and check back throughout the week for at least two more updates :)

What are your goals for this month? Anyone else gearing up for school? Also, does anyone have any packing/moving/grad school tips? I'm all ears!